Start with Research

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain the importance of design skills.
  • Explain the importance of research within the design process.
  • Differentiate between quantitative and qualitative data.
  • Apply survey best practices in your research.
  • Apply one-on-one interview best practices in your research.


This module was produced in collaboration with InVision, which owns, supports, and maintains the InVision products, services, and features described here. Use of InVision products, services, and features is governed by privacy policies and service agreements maintained by InVision.

Learn Design Fundamentals

Some people (and companies) think app design is just about making apps look pretty, that it’s about “pushing pixels.” They tend to focus on, and struggle with, usability—can a user open the app, get to a specific feature, and use it? They stop there, and miss out.

How much are they missing out on? How about these:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Revenue
  • In-depth user metrics
  • Marketing performance
  • Cost savings
  • Productivity
  • Brand value
  • Patents/Intellectual property

Yes, app design affects all of these and more. 

Maybe you’re an admin for a small company responsible for both the design and development of an app. Or you’re a developer working closely with a designer in a big company. Maybe you’re somewhere in between. Wherever you are in this spectrum, when you adopt design fundamentals into your work, you take it to the next level.

In this module, you learn the fundamentals of app design and prototyping. Along the way, you see how these essential skills help contribute more value for your business.  

You start by checking in with a Salesforce administrator, Linda Rosenberg.

Case Study: Linda Rosenberg Designs an App for Cloud Kicks

Linda Rosenberg at her desk contemplating app design.

Linda Rosenberg is the Salesforce administrator for Cloud Kicks, a custom shoe and apparel company. Recently, her manager tasked her to build an app for the company’s mobile sales team. Why does the Cloud Kicks sales team need a mobile app? 

As the company grows, sales reps find they’re out in the field more often. They’re consulting with companies on their custom apparel needs and closing deals on the spot. The sales director mentions in a recent email that they need an app that helps them collaborate with customers on their custom shoe designs.

Having designed an app in her previous job, Linda knows this isn’t enough to go on. She has to do the proper research.

Eliminate Guesswork

Linda distressed with a swirl of thoughts around her.It’s tempting to dive right into building an app, especially when you have a brilliant idea and all the tools at your fingertips. Think about what might happen if Linda did just that.

  1. Linda builds an app in a few days (yay productivity!) and shows it to her manager.
  2. It takes a day for her manager to review, but overall they feel OK with it, especially since Linda documented the workflow.
  3. They schedule a meeting with the sales leaders that next week, and present all the fun and flashy parts of the app. Everyone is excited.
  4. They roll it out to the sales team the week after, with all the training material.
  5. Sales people hate it. When they’re out in the field, they find themselves having to reference the training guides more than they’d like, they start to get orders wrong, and customers start to question if they made the right decision doing business with Cloud Kicks.
  6. Back to the drawing board with a month’s worth of emails, notes, and feedback. Not everyone (or every business) gets a second chance like this.

Let’s tally. It’s been more than a month and all Linda has to show for it is a poorly designed app, a demoralized sales team, and a spike in customer complaints. 

This may be a doom-and-gloom scenario, but it highlights the first essential element of great design—research

Conduct Research

 Linda gives a thumbs up having done proper research.

Strong research helps you understand the needs of the user. More importantly, it helps you understand how to design the app in order to meet those needs. This goes for any app, whether it’s a business app like Linda’s, or a customer-facing app. 

It also helps you avoid painful, time-consuming, and expensive work based off of guesses and assumptions, like the scenario above. Knowing that research will help get her the information she needs, she starts by pulling data from a key source.

Get to Know Quantitative Data

Linda’s first stop is Sales Cloud. There’s a wealth of information she can pull to help her get to the right design, such as:

  • The list of field sales reps (audience)
  • Who closed the most deals (trends for sales productivity)
  • Who closed the biggest deals (trends for impact)
  • Average open deals by rep (scale)
  • Login information, who uses the desktop sales app the most (adoption)
  • Number of opportunities created (trends for productivity and adoption)
  • Service cases logged by sales reps (existing app issues)

And so on. This type of information is quantitative data. These are things that can be measured, like behavior patterns and statistics or trends. 

There are other ways to get quantitative data.


Her manager and the sales director made it clear that this app is for the field sales team. They are her stakeholders and her customers in this project. She takes the list of Field Sales Reps and starts jotting down her questions for them, which she plans to include in a survey.

Now, developing a survey can be a design task in itself. What questions will get you to the answers you seek? How do you order them? How do you incentivize your audience so they answer? What survey tool should you use?

You can find more information about survey design in the Resources section. Here are a few essential tips:

  • Start simple. Set clear goals about what you want to learn.
  • Stay clear. Use clear language and avoid jargon.
  • Keep it short. Shorter surveys get higher response rates. Essential questions only.
  • Beware of question bias. Eliminate questions that lead the survey-taker, like, “Tell us what you like best about this feature.” Instead, craft a question like, “What do you think about this feature?”
  • Beware of response order bias. When the question order is not important, randomize them to avoid response order bias.
  • Conclude with an open-ended question. Asking “Is there anything else you want to tell us?” can help surface things that may surprise you.

Linda starts crafting questions like:

“What is the most challenging aspect of your day?”

“What are the top three things this app should do?”

“Is there anything else you want to tell us?”

With the survey underway and feedback coming in, Linda takes her research to the next level with one-on-one interviews.

Get to Know Qualitative Data

Quantitative data is just one side of research. While it’s necessary to get to the heart of design, it needs to be paired with qualitative data. In design, this is the kind of data that tells you about the qualities of an app, product, or experience. Qualitative data answers “why”—why does the user like this specific feature, why does this process cause frustration, and so on.

Linda knows just how to get this kind of information.

One-on-One Interviews

Some of the best qualitative data comes from informational interviews—personal insight into challenges and needs, excitement for specific features, those aha! and collaborative moments. There’s no replacement for being on a call or in the same room with stakeholders and customers.

These meetings should be structured and straightforward, similar to how you set up your survey. Identify key areas you’d like to explore in the interview, like gaining a deeper understanding of how collaboration plays into the challenges and success for field sales. Outline a script of questions that will help you get this understanding. This will ensure you’re collecting information consistently across all interviews. Your script will also help you plan how long the interviews will be!

Here are more interview best practices:

  • Explain the intention and expectations clearly. Help your customers and stakeholders understand the goal(s) of the meeting, why the interview is valuable to them, and how they should participate.
  • Be respectful and gracious in your communication. They’re taking time out of their day to support your design project. Thanking them for their time and insight will help ensure they remain open to collaborate with you in the event you need to follow up.
  • Find ways to make it fun and interactive. Whiteboarding, sketching, storyboarding—you can’t go wrong with visual aid.

Linda interviews Candace.

Linda schedules one-on-one meetings with several reps to dig deeper into their current experience and what ideal features they want to see in the field sales app. She whiteboards their processes, sketches while in the room with them, and comes away with key insights that will help her tell a fuller story.



Surveys can provide you with valuable quantitative and qualitative information. For example, Linda can tally the responses to the "What are the top three things this app should do?" question to get a quantitative understanding of the top requests, and she can add context to that data by highlighting how it relates to the key challenges that came up when she asked "What is the most challenging aspect of your day?"

Synthesize the Data

Now that Linda has collected her survey and interview data, she takes time to analyze the responses. She finds key trends, often repeated terms like “real-time data” and “interactive experience,” and organizes them in a spreadsheet to help guide her designs. Check out the UX Research Basics module for additional analysis best practices.

With the right quantitative and qualitative data, Linda is ready to move on to the next phase of app design. And so are you.


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